Hockey season opens tonight and we’ve got a an opening night play on the three game slate. Perhaps more so than any other sport, hard work and competitive intensity goes a long way in hockey. A less talented team can do well by ‘outworking’ their opponents night after night. As a corollary to this, intangibles like team chemistry are also important. Underscored by the fact that near the end of the season you invariably see eight or ten teams alive for the final playoff spots there’s a lot of competitive parity. The overtime and shootout rules also adds a strong element of chance to every game—hockey by nature is low scoring so when the outcome is decided in a more arbitrary manner it by definition favors the underdog. If you’ve read my baseball handicapping or listened to the EOG Sports Hour radio show you’ve heard us discuss the importance of not second guessing your bets. This involves ‘feeling good’ about losing plays or, more appropriately, having the confidence to make them again in the same set of circumstances. One metric I use in hockey is this—if I’m holding a ticket with one team at a decent dog price and the game gets decided in OT/shootout more often than not I’m happy with my handicapping.

Other factors to consider when handicapping hockey—you’ll often see scheduling issues (eg: back to back games, travel) like in the NBA. At the same time, hockey is often a streaky game like baseball with teams going on long winning/unbeaten streaks followed by runs where they can’t buy a victory. Injuries are important, but as is the case with most sports injuries to big name players can be overpriced in the line and overvalued by bettors. I focus more on injuries to ‘unsung heroes’ like playmakers and penalty kill specialists, as well as ‘cluster injuries’ to a team’s defensive corps. I also like to wait a few games before diving in with totals—there weren’t any major rule changes in the off season but much depends on how officials ‘call’ games which can result in more or fewer power play chances and as a result more scoring.

PHILADELPHIA FLYERS AT BOSTON BRUINS—4:05 PM PACIFIC

Our EOG Sports Hour hockey expert Grady Roy said that this Flyers’ team could be the team to beat this season and is his selection to win the Stanley Cup. At the very least, they represent an excellent opening night value. It’s a ‘revenge spot’ for the Flyers who were swept by the Bruins in the Stanley Cup playoffs last season as Boston marched to the championship. Flyers addressed their biggest liability in the offseason, acquiring the brutally talented goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov from Phoenix. Bryzgalov often won games for the Coyotes by himself and with some talent around him could become one of the league’s best similar to how Roberto Luongo became a superstar when he came to Vancouver.

Going against a championship team on their opening night ‘ring ceremony’ game is a strong position in any sport (thanks to Twitter bud @wesreynolds1 for this concept). It’s a simple concept—the home team gets patted on the back for their accomplishments of the previous year and then has to go to battle against a pissed off opponent that has been forced to sit through it all. As is common in many of the NHL conference rivalries, this series has been very evenly contested—since 1992 these teams are 17-17-7 on TD BankNorth Garden/Fleet Center/Shawmut Center/Boston Garden ice.

Bet Philadelphia Flyers +125 over Boston Bruins

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